Use Social Media to Identify Target AudiencesErik Suhonen
The number of social commerce buyers in the US reached 80 million last year and is expected to grow to 90 million in 2021 (eMarketer). Thanks to this concentrated digital audience, having a social media presence has never been more of a necessity for small businesses than it is right now. Bottom line.
But not all social media strategies are created equal. Small business owners must approach social media’s endless marketing opportunities with the intention to reach the audiences most likely to find their products or services interesting and worthwhile.
That said, finding and targeting the right audience on social media can be a tricky task for an online seller, especially those new to e-commerce. Here are some tips on how SMBs can locate and target their ideal audiences on social media for high-quality, tailored marketing.
Create Buyer Personas
Small business (SMB) owners must first decide who the ideal buyer for their product is—create an imagined buyer persona—before letting social media do the work. These personas will help focus marketing, sales outreach, and product development on the specific needs of potential customers.
If an SMB owner has already been collecting data on the habits of their shoppers, it will be easier to create buyer personas. Data will display attributes that target audience members might have in common, like age, geographic location, educational background, profession, interests, etc. For example, if I am a local wine merchant in California, data might show a concentration of middle-aged buyers.
Email surveys to customers can help mold these personas further. Sticking with our fictional wine merchant, by sending an email to all buyers asking for demographic information, perhaps I will learn that my shoppers are predominantly women, college educated, and west-coast-local. Knowing this, I can better tailor my content to these particular audiences and increase my chances of converting sales.
When SMB owners are able to identify ideal customers, they can more easily design social posts and designate marketing emails with a basic notion of who they are communicating with, even before diving into the social media tactics I outline below.
Listen and Learn
There are tools built especially for listening to and learning from the social media interactions and habits of potential customers. Often, insight tools are built into e-commerce social media automation, keeping an SMB’s social accounts synced while also analyzing marketing efforts. Popular options include Sprout Social, HubSpot, and BuzzSumo. Instagram offers its own built-in version, “Instagram Insights,” providing intel to Instagram Business Account users on follower demographics and other performance statistics, such as which content type gets the most interactions and whether particular posts led to further exploration of the business profile.
By leveraging these tools, I can learn that my most popular content is videos of wine pairing suggestions. Then, knowing that this is where I have the greatest customer interaction, I can boost these types of posts to attract more like-minded buyers.
Insight tools enable SMBs to understand how social media marketing contributes to the sales funnel, i.e., how campaigns further customers along in their journey from prospective buyer to a sale. By understanding the steps consumers take along the path to their products, SMBs can tweak marketing tactics and meet shoppers where they’re already scrolling.
Certain other tools prefer to “listen,” allowing small business owners to monitor conversations about their brand, industry, and products. Merchants can pre-select hashtags, news coverage, and relevant keywords they want tracked (say #wine, vineyard news, or keyword: foodie), and the tools will compile this data.
Social media listening also enables small business owners to discover new sales leads and untapped markets, track patterns of customers’ product experiences, and provide a more holistic view of the customer base, fleshing out those buyer personas.
While using these tools is important, they do have limitations, as they can only analyze publicly available information. Because of this, it’s vital for SMBs to pair social listening with data-driven forms of research on their audience.
Keep Your Enemies Close
Lastly, it’s important to note that e-commerce opens up small businesses to competitors they may not have had if they stayed selling locally. Suddenly, our California wine merchant is competing for the same customers as a local vintner in New York. SMBs can better understand their own target audiences by paying attention to those of both more direct competitors and those selling related items. For example, if I sell wine, it might help me to know who is on social media shopping for locally-sourced cheese.
Pay attention to how frequently competitors post on social media, who is interacting with their posts—and to what extent—and how they are responding to direct queries on social media. Are they responding to questions in the comments of posts? Or are they insisting on direct messaging for a more intimate conversation? SMBs should mirror successful customer interactions on their own social channels.
Working backwards from these insights, merchants can understand what marketing strategies their competition is prioritizing and whether this seems to be working for them. Although it’s never a good idea to directly copy competitors, analyzing where their marketing is effective and ineffective will help SMBs reach the shared audience better.
Finding and better understanding target audiences is essential for success in online selling. And since sales numbers on social media are increasing by the minute, understanding who is using social media and why—and placing this in relation to ideal buyer personas—will help small business owners optimize their marketing strategies. With in-depth knowledge of their social media audience in hand, SMB owners can design a content distribution strategy that focuses acutely on their customers’ needs, increasing conversion rates and maximizing revenue.
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